https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2017/10/10/world-mental-health-day-lets-talk-about-mental-health-in-the-workplace/

World Mental Health Day - let's talk about mental health in the workplace

Head shot of Jonathan Jones
Jonathan Jones, Permanent Secretary of the Government Legal Department and Civil Service Health and WellBeing Champion

Today is World Mental Health Day. Mental health problems can affect anyone on any day of the year, and observing World Mental Health Day provides an important opportunity for us all to show our support for better mental health.

The focus for this year’s World Mental Health Day is mental health in the workplace. Within the Civil Service, we are marking the occasion by reflecting on the progress that we have made to support mental health and what more we can do.

Research carried out by mental health charity Mind shows that only two in five women (38%) feel the culture in their organisation makes it possible to speak openly about their mental ill health; and nearly one in three men (31%) say the same. Interestingly, the research also showed that 24% of people feel less alone after hearing people in the public eye discuss mental health. In response to this, departments will be launching a ‘Talking about mental health’ role-model poster campaign for the Civil Service. The aim of the campaign is to encourage an open dialogue to reduce the stigma often associated with mental ill health. The posters feature civil servants from across departments who volunteered to share candidly their mental health journeys.

Two posters on issue of mental health
Two examples from the Civil Service 'Talking about mental health' role-model poster campaign

We were overwhelmed and humbled by the number of volunteers who came forward to take part. I hope sharing their experiences will encourage others to speak up and seek help.

Head and shoulders of man with quote alongside
Detail from Civil Service 'Talking about mental health' campaign role-model poster

Our role models have used a number of support services available in the Civil Service, such as line management support, the workplace adjustment passport toolkit, mental health first-aiders and the ‘Break the Stigma’ network.

They also highlight the crucial role line managers have to play in ensuring teams are not affected by unnecessary work-related stress, recognising the signs of stress, knowing what support is available, and signposting members of the team who may be suffering from stress to the support available. To help line managers with this, a mental health guide is being developed.

'A great place to work' logoI would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our role-model poster campaign. I encourage civil servants to continue to create a culture where individuals feel they can have open discussions at work about mental health. I’d also welcome hearing from anyone who wants to share what they are doing in their department. I sincerely believe that if we talk openly we will continue to break the stigma and create a great place to work.

11 comments

  1. Comment by Wendy Jacob posted on

    Recognising that the workplace must adapt and respond to issues regarding mental health is one step forward. But, unless employers and employees work together to create a healthier environment and change practices that cause and sustain stress, this will continue. Despite efforts to remove the stigma associated with mental health, many people (and we are all people – not just managers and team members – with complex lives inside and outside the workplace) are reluctant to come forward. The mind is amazingly adaptive and more encouragement should be given to making the workplace a healthy, pleasant and effective place to spend time. Abundant research projects have proved the benefits of meditation, physical activity and sleep – reducing anxiety and depression, increasing concentration and creativity and creating empathy amongst colleagues. I fear that line managers tasked with ‘ensuring teams are not affected by unnecessary work-related stress’ may end up seeking help themselves.

    • Replies to Wendy Jacob>

      Comment by Jonathan Jones posted on

      Hi Wendy, thank you very much for your response. I wholeheartedly agree that support needs to be given at every level to promote good mental health and wellbeing. Both Philip Rutnam and I, Disability and Health and Wellbeing Champions respectively, are committed to building a culture in the Civil Service that supports people with mental health issues and helps them to flourish in the workplace. There are a range of resources out there to support employees and line managers, including learning packages available on Civil Service Learning, and a mental health toolkit for managers will also be available soon. Jeremy Heywood's recent blog talks about more of the actions we are taking across the Civil Service to support employees and line managers. We hope campaigns such as ‘Talking about mental health’ will encourage more people to speak up and seek help, and would ask everyone to support us and their local champions in driving forward this cultural change within their individual departments.

  2. Comment by Gordon Hodgson posted on

    Thank you for you work in this area, Jonathan.

    I'd like to remind colleagues to join their departmental (or local) mental health networks, and that we now have a cross-government mental health network to join those all together.

    For more information (until we have a web site!) please find us on Twitter at @XGovMHN,

    • Replies to Gordon Hodgson>

      Comment by Jonathan Jones posted on

      Hello Gordon. Thank you for highlighting departmental and local networks that play an invaluable role. It is great to see so much engagement with mental health across the Civil Service.

  3. Comment by Gordon Hodgson posted on

    Happy to announce that we now have an online profile for people interested in knowing more about the Cross-Government Mental Health Network!

    https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/cross-government-mental-health-network/

  4. Comment by Annette Gillen posted on

    We have a Tranquility Room here in Glasgow for staff to take time out when required and to research any help they need. We now also have 3 trained Mental Health Advocates and have had a tea & talk day today where a number of staff have discovered the room. I've had full support from Senior Management in this venture and it has helped staff greatly.

    • Replies to Annette Gillen>

      Comment by Jonathan Jones posted on

      Hello Annette, it is fantastic to hear that departments are not only actively supporting employees in looking after their own mental health but promoting frequent conversations around it as well. It is encouraging to hear about the use of tranquillity rooms, sometimes known as quiet/wellbeing rooms. A number of departments have quiet spaces for employees should they need to take some time away from the pace and noise of the work environment.

  5. Comment by Karen Giles posted on

    Having suffered with anxiety and depression for many years, I can honestly say that the Land Registry and in particular my line managers have never wavered in their support. I am comfortable and relaxed in my workplace, my colleagues are fabulous in their kind and caring attitudes and at last my medication is working well. My message to others is - do not ever be afraid to speak up and ask for help. There is no shame, it is an illness like any other. Just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it isn't there. There are many sources available for help and support. Please do not be afraid to admit you need help. It will get better, I promise. We all need to lean on someone sometimes.......

    • Replies to Karen Giles>

      Comment by Jonathan Jones posted on

      Hello Karen and thank you for sharing your inspirational and personal experience. I echo your advice in speaking up. Encouraging open dialogue not only opens the door to help and support but will help reduce the stigma often associated with mental health. Thanks again for being such a great advocate and helping us to change the culture for the better.

  6. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on

    Thank you Jonathan for promoting this very important issue that affects 1 in 4 people in the UK.

    Like you, I commend those who have been willing to speak openly about their lived in experience. I have certainly seen a significant increase in awareness and support about mental health, even at Senior Level. The fact that we now have, as highlighted by Gordon Hodgson, a Cross-Government Mental Health Network in place, shows how far we have come.

    Certainly, within the FCO, we have seen a the growth of our Staff Association the Wellbeing Network, colleagues seeking to become Mental Health First Aiders [MHFA], participation as a good employer in the MIND Wellbeing Workplace Index, colleagues signing up to attend lunchtime wellbeing workshops and fantastic support from our Senior Management Team.

    Having recently arrived in Istanbul to take up an overseas posting, I have already observed a good level of interest about the Wellbeing Agenda at Post level and most recently was asked to give a short talk to one of our Committees about my role as a MHFA.

    So I feel Jonathan that we are starting to make significant progress.

    • Replies to Gavin Thomas>

      Comment by Jonathan Jones posted on

      Hello Gavin and thank you for your response. It is great to hear your feedback on the progress on mental health across the Civil Service both in the UK and internationally. I agree that we are making significant headway and hope campaigns like ‘Talking about mental health’ will help take us one step further.